Sunday cooking adventures: Barley Risotto with Mushrooms


This recipe caught my eye because even though I’m not a huge fan of risotto, when I saw the word “barley” it made me look. I love barley. It’s a good source of soluble fiber, which is a great addition when you’re trying to lower your cholesterol.

This recipe is not a traditional risotto, because it uses barley and not Arborio rice, but boy it sure tastes good. I did not use the same proportions of wild mushrooms called for in the original Cooking Light magazine recipe.  I used a mixture of 12 ounces of gourmet mushrooms, five ounces of shiitake mushrooms, and six of cremini mushrooms  I did use the dried porcini mushrooms as called for in the recipe which give it a very rich broth and flavor.


This gourmet blend of mushrooms gave good flavor to the soup, but it ain’t cheap!

I tried chopping the (very hard) porcini mushrooms before soaking as called for in the recipe, but I don’t recommend it. It slows you down, it’s hard to do, and it’s a lot easier to soak them for a few minutes in boiling water and then chop them. Reserve the liquid they soaked in and pour it in your soup for great flavor.

I used white onions instead of leeks.  I was cooking a lot of food with onions today (spaghetti, hamburgers and the risotto), so I just made it easy on myself and chopped all the onions at once so I didn’t have to go through the hasel of cleaning and cutting up leeks.  If you decide you want to add 2 cups of leeks instead, here’s how to clean them.


Finally, I added eight ounces of 90 percent lean turkey/chicken hot italian sausage to the mix. I took the sausage from the casings by slitting them with a knife, then I browned the sausage till crumbly in a little olive oil.  The risotto was great without the meat, but in my family of men, if it doesn’t have meat in it it’s not a complete meal, so I added the sausage. Because the sausage amps up the sodium content, be careful of your portions on this dish if you add it. A serving is generous (1-1/2 cups) but certainly the sausage added more to the 398 milligrams in the original recipe (note that I eliminated the kosher salt it called for).

So if you’re looking for an earthy satisfying dish, this one fits the bill, with or without meat. Hope you enjoy it.

Here is a link to the original recipe for Barley Risotto with Wild Mushrooms from Cooking Light.

Barley risotto with wild mushrooms
adapted from December 2013 issue of Cooking Light Magazine


2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups thinly white onions (about 2 medium)
12 ounces mixed gourmet mushrooms, sliced
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
8 cups water
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
8 ounces 90 percent lean turkey chicken sausage (optional)
3 ounces vegetarian Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onions; sauté 10 minutes or until tender. Add gourmet, cremini, and shiitake mushrooms; cook 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add barley and garlic; cook 2 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring frequently. Add wine and thyme; simmer 1 minute or until liquid is nearly absorbed. Add 8 cups water and porcini mushrooms. (If you soak mushrooms first, add the soaking water as part of the total 8 cups) Reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour or until barley is tender and creamy, stirring frequently. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

Cooks note: If adding sausage, while risotto is cooking, remove casings. Place 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet. Place sausage in skillet and brown, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks. Add cooked sausage to risotto just before adding cheese.

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